Paxton hurls Cats to the postseason

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Sophomore James Paxton hurled his first career complete-game shutout, leading the No. 20 Kentucky Wildcats to a series-clinching and Southeastern Conference Tournament berth-clinching 9-0 win, on Friday evening at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

Kentucky (41-14, 16-13 SEC) sits in third place overall in the SEC after Friday’s results. The Wildcats have clinched a spot in the SEC Tournament, held May 21-25 in Hoover, Ala. The SEC Tournament appearance will mark UK’s 14th appearance, with the last coming in 2006.

Paxton turned in a gem for UK, going the distance for the first time in his collegiate career, with his previous career high for innings pitched 5.2. Paxton, a sophomore from Ladner, British Columbia, had been bothered by lingering injuries in his last two starts, which limited him to two combined innings, including a six-pitch outing vs. LSU. Paxton pitched the game of his career, striking out seven – including the last batter of the game – and allowing seven hits, without issuing a walk. With the win, Paxton improves to 4-2, dropping his ERA to 2.57.

National Player of the Year candidate Sawyer Carroll paced UK at the plate, hitting his 16th homer of the season as part of a 2-for-3, two-walk evening. Carroll added two RBI, moving his season total up to 77 and placing him into a tie for first place with 2006 SEC Player of the Year Ryan Strieby, who tallied 77 RBI during the SEC Championship run. On the year, Carroll has posted staggering numbers, hitting for an SEC-leading .420 average, with 19 doubles, 16 homers, 77 RBI, 36 walks and 11-of-11 stolen bases.

The win was UK’s first-SEC shutout of the year, handing Ole Miss just its second shutout of the season. The Wildcats last SEC shutout came in 2004, when UK blanked Auburn in Auburn, 8-0.

UK’s 41-wins marks the second-most wins in the 104-year history of the program, equaling Keith Madison’s 1991 club’s 41 wins. The school record belongs to the 2006 squad, which tallied 44 wins en route to the first SEC Title in program history. With 16 SEC wins, UK has totaled the third-most conference victories in program history, equaling the 16 wins achieved in 1987, just shy of the 1988 team’s 18 and the school record of 20 wins set in 2006.

Keenan Wiley and Brian Spear each contributed multi-hit games, with Spear driving in a team-best three-RBI. Chris McClendon, Chris Wade, Tyler Howe and Troy Frazier each contributed a hit.

Ole Miss starter Drew Pomeranz (4-3) took the loss after allowing seven hits and six runs in 3.1 innings. Jake Morgan, Nathan Baker and Justin Cryer finished off the game for the Rebels, allowing three runs in the final 4.2 innings.

UK will seek the sweep on Saturday, hosting Ole Miss on getaway day, with first pitch slated for 1 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game can be heard live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price calling the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the action on WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM.

Kentucky got the scoring started in the second inning, as McClendon led off with a single through the right side. Wade laid down a sacrifice bunt back to the pitching mound, fielded by Ole Miss catcher Brett Basham, whose throw to first missed low, allowing McClendon to move to third on the error. The next hitter, catcher Howe scored McClendon with an RBI groundout to first.

Carroll extended the UK lead to 2-0, cranking the first pitch he saw of the third inning to the opposite field, soaring over the left-field fence for his 16th home run of the season.

UK extended its lead to 7-0 with a five-run outburst in the fourth, as Howe singled with one out and Frazier singled up the middle. Wiley scored Wade with a single into right field and Ryan Wilkes drew a walk. Carroll scored one with a bases-loaded walk and Cowgill got Wiley home with a sacrifice fly. Spear added two RBI with a single into right center, scoring Wilkes and Carroll.

The Wildcats got two runs in the eighth, getting a lead-off walk from Wiley, with Carroll drawing his second walk of the game one batter later. Wiley plated on an error and Spear doubled down the line, scoring Carroll.

5/16 SEC Results

5/16/2008 * Alabama 17 at #12 Georgia 13 FINAL
5/16/2008 * Alabama 4 at #12 Georgia 5 FINAL
5/16/2008 * #13 Vanderbilt 3 at Florida 5 FINAL
5/16/2008 * Tennessee 5 at #19 South Carolina 7 FINAL
5/16/2008 * Mississippi 0 at #20 Kentucky 9 FINAL
5/16/2008 * #24 Louisiana State 15 at Auburn 6 FINAL
5/16/2008 * Arkansas 5 at Mississippi State 6 FINAL

Road to Hoover
1. Georgia 20-8-1 [East]
2. LSU 17-11-1 [West]
3. Kentucky 16-13
4. Florida 16-13
5. Vanderbilt 15-13
6. Alabama 15-14
7. S. Carolina 14-15
8. Ole Miss 14-15
9. Arkansas 13-15
10. Tennessee 12-17
11. Auburn 11-18
12. Miss. St. 9-20